Caught by the River

Caught by the Reaper – Alex Chilton

20th March 2010

by Bobby Gillespie

Alex sang on, made, wrote and produced some of my favourite records ever. Records like The Letter by the Box Tops, which he sang. Then the Big Star stuff. Sister Lovers, the third Big Star album, is one of my favourites. September Gurls is an incredible single. It’s as good as The Byrds or The Beatles. It’s that good. “Like Flies On Sherbert” and “Bangkok”, total classics.

When we started Primal Scream, Alex was a huge influence on us. And he still is. Even if he’d only ever produced the first few Cramps singles and the first Cramps album, he’d still be one of my rock ‘n’ roll heroes. But he did a lot more than that. He made so many great records. They were art records, beautiful records, mournful records, sad records, joyous records. Alex Chilton was one of the greats. From the very beginning of our band in the mid-80s right up to his death, he was one of our gurus, one of our heroes. I never knew the man or met the man but he’s been with us all the time in terms of being a constant inspiration.

In 1991 we went to Ardent Studios in Memphis, where Big Star made their second and third albums. It was a great experience and I’ll never forget it. That’s how much we love Alex Chilton – we went to the studio where he made his records. It was like some kind of pilgrimage. When you hear Get Your Rocks Off, that was recorded at Arden.
Guys like Alex Chilton are too far out, they’re too hip, too advanced for most people to recognise. I think he made far out rock ‘n’ roll records – real mad crazy art punk rock ‘n’ roll. I think that insanity’s too much for most people to take in.

As each year goes past, we lose guys like Alex Chilton, Lux Interior from The Cramps, Ron Asheton from The Stooges, Roland S Howard from The Birthday Party. There’s less real rock ‘n’ roll left on the planet. I think we’re witnessing the death of rock ‘n’ roll when these guys pass. What people play these days is a form of rock music but it’s not rock ‘n’ roll. These guys are the real thing. And it’s sad when they die. When you look at the way music is now, it’s truly safe. Indie music is supposed to be outsider art. But what purports to be indie music is actually mainstream, bland music. Alex Chilton made outsider art. The Cramps were outsider art. And I just think it’s too much for most people to take. It’s too wild, it’s too free, it’s unconstrained and uncontrollable.

Thanks to Tom Sheehan for the pic (